Spicy, pungent mustard greens or leafy mustard are indeed one of the most nutritious green leafy vegetables. These greens actually have more vitamin A, carotenes, vitamin K and flavonoid anti-oxidants than many commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.
This crispy leafy vegetable obtained from mustard plant belonging to brassica family which also includes cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts... etc. Scientific name: Brassica juncea.
The mustard plant is native to sub-Himalayan plains of Indian sub-continent commonly cultivated for its winter season leaves and oil seeds since ancient times. Several cultivars exist. Mustards are winter crops when the leaves are more flavorful from November till March. The plant reaches about 4-5 feet in height and bears golden yellow colored flowers. However its young tender leaves that is harvested when the plant reaches about 2 feet in height and used as green leafy vegetable.
Fresh mustards feature dark green colored broad leaves with flat surface and may have either toothed, frilled or lacy edges depending up on the cultivar type. Its light green stem branches out with many laterals.
Mustard seeds used as spice are being used for extensively in cooking as well as in oil production all over south Asian region.
Health benefits of mustard greens
- Mustard greens like spinach are the store house of many phytonutrients that have health promotional and disease prevention properties.
- Very low in calories (26 kcal per 100 g raw leaves) and fats, but rich in dietary fiber; recommended in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs. However, these greeny leaves contain very good amount of dietary fibre that helps control cholesterol level and also help protect against hemorrhoids, constipation as well as colon cancer diseases.
- Fresh mustard greens are an excellent source of several vital anti-oxidants and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, carotenes as well essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium and manganese.
- The greens are supposed to be one of the highest among leafy vegetables which provide vitamin K. 100 g of fresh leaves contain about 497 mcg or about 500% of daily requirement of vitamin K 1 (phylloquinone). Vitamin K has found to have potential role in bone mass building function by promoting osteo-trophic activity in the bone. It also has established role in Alzheimer's disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
- Fresh leaves are also very good source of folic acid. 100 g provide about 187 mcg (about 47% of RDA) of folic acid. This water soluble vitamin has an important role in DNA synthesis and when given before and early pregnancy help prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
- Mustard greens are rich source of anti-oxidants flavonoids, indoles, sulforaphane, carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. Indoles, mainly di-indolyl-methane (DIM) and sulforaphane have proven benefits against prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
- Fresh mustard leaves are excellent source of vitamin-C. Provides 70 mcg or about 117% of RDA per 100 g. Vitamin-C (ascorbic acid) is a powerful natural anti-oxidant that offers protection against free radical injury and flu-like viral infections.
- The leaves are also an excellent source of vitamin-A (provide 10500 IU or 350% of RDA per 100 g). Vitamin A is essential nutrient for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is also essential for vision. Consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Regular consumption of mustard greens in the diet is known to prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anaemia and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases, asthma and colon and prostate cancers.
- Mustards are winter crops. In the markets, look for fresh mustard greens featuring crispy, dark green leaves and should show vitality. Avoid sunken, spotted or discolored leaves.
- The leaves wilt soon if kept at room temperature; therefore, should be stored in refrigerator immediately. Although they can be stored for up to 3 days in the cold storage, fresh mustard greens should be used as soon as early as possible to get maximum nutrition.